Pastor questioned by FBI about "life issues" sermons

| reports that a small-town Illinois pastor was questioned by FBI agents about a sermon he delivered on Memorial Day last year, in which he compared the victims of abortion to the casualties of war:

"I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through 'legal' abortion since 1973," Steele said. "I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the 'presupposition of freedom.'"

Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week.

Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele's "different type of war" comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI.

A comment, in a different sermon, about his willingness to go to jail for the truth added fuel to the fire:

The informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause.

Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series.

"I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church," Steele said. The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that "if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that's where I'm going to be and I'm going to save you a seat next to me."

In the end, no formal investigation was done. The FBI agents were gracious, the pastor was gracious, and the matter was dropped. No harm, although anticipating the FBI's visit must have been nervewracking for the pastor.

It's possible the informant was confused or possessed of an overactive imagination. It's also possible that this was intended to be a means of harrassment, creating a chilling effect to keep this pastor and others from preaching on social issues. It will be worth watching to see if there are more investigations of pastors, and how diligent the FBI is at filtering out complaints intended to intimidate faithful preachers.

(Hat tip:

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 5, 2005 1:19 PM.

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